Halacha for Wednesday 8 Tevet 5781 December 23 2020

Keri’at Shema and its Blessings Regarding Women

Question: Are women obligated to recite Keri’at Shema every day?

Answer: In the previous Halacha, we have mentioned the words of our Sages in Masechet Kiddushin (34a as well as in Berachot 20b and other places) that women are exempt from positive, time-bound Mitzvot, i.e. Mitzvot which need to be fulfilled actively such as the Mitzvot of Lulav, Sukkah, Tefillin, etc. and can only be fulfilled during a specific time, such as the Mitzvah of Lulav which can only be performed during Sukkot. Our Sages derive this from verses in the Torah.

Certainly then, Keri’at Shema is considered a positive, time-bound Mitzvah, for the Torah limits the Mitzvah of Keri’at Shema to the morning and nighttime hours, as the verse states, “And you shall speak of them etc. and when you lie down and when you arise.” Our Sages (Berachot 10b) understood that one must recite Keri’at Shema at the time when people lie down (to sleep) and at the time when people wake up in the morning. It is for this reason that the Mishnah (Berachot 20a) states that women are exempt from the Mitzvah of Keri’at Shema.

Nevertheless, the Sefer Ohel Mo’ed (one of the great Rishonim) writes (in Sha’ar Keri’at Shema) that although women are exempt from reciting Keri’at Shema in a general manner, they are nevertheless obligated to read the first verse of Keri’at Shema, for they are also obligated in the most basic Mitzvah that every Jew is commanded to fulfill, which is to believe that Hashem is the one and only G-d. Reciting the first verse of Keri’at Shema is an acceptance of Hashem’s absolute oneness.

Although Maran Ha’Bet Yosef (Chapter 70) quotes the opinion of the Ohel Mo’ed, it seems that from the words of other Poskim that they did not accept the position of the Ohel Mo’ed and in their opinion, women are not halachically obligated to read even the first verse of Keri’at Shema (although women are most certainly obligated in the belief of Hashem’s oneness).

Halachically speaking, Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch rules that women are exempt from reciting Keri’at Shema, however, it is proper for them to read the first verse of Keri’at Shema every day in order for them to accept the yoke of Heaven upon themselves.

We have already established in the previous Halacha that according to Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch and the Sephardic tradition, women may not recite a blessing with Hashem’s name before performing a Mitzvah they are exempt from. According to the Rama’s ruling and the Ashkenazi custom, however, women may recite a blessing before performing even Mitzvot that they are exempt from.

Based on this, we can infer that women may not recite any of the blessings of Keri’at Shema, i.e. the “Yotzer Ohr”, “Ahavat Olam”, and “Emet Ve’Yatziv” blessings in the Shacharit prayer and the “Ha’Ma’ariv Aravim”, “Ahavat Olam”, “Emet Ve’Emunah”, and “Hashkivenu” blessings in the Arvit prayer. Nevertheless, according to the Ashkenazi custom, women may recite these blessings as well.

Summary: Women are halachically exempt from reciting Keri’at Shema. It is nevertheless preferable for them to recite at least the first verse of Keri’at Shema on a daily basis. If they decide to read the entire prayer service, they may not conclude (or begin) the blessings of Keri’at Shema with Hashem’s name (i.e. by reciting “Baruch Yotzer Ha’Me’orot” etc.). On the other hand, the Ashkenazi custom is that women recite the entire prayer service while including Hashem’s name.

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

The Eight Levels of Tzedakah

The Rambam (Chapter 10 of Hilchot Matenot Aniyim) writes that there are eight levels included in the Mitzvah of Tzedakah with each one being greater than the other. The highest level of Tzedakah is by helping to support a Jew who lacks his basic needs by providing him with money by means of a gif......

Read Halacha

The Mitzvah of Tzedakah and Donating a Tenth of One’s Earnings

By popular demand, we shall now discuss the topics of Tzedakah and donating a tenth of one’s earnings more broadly based on the words of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch and the Poskim and based on what is written in the works of Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l on this topic. Question: ......

Read Halacha

Question: Are those who customarily donate a tenth of their monthly income to Tzedakah permitted to deduct the cost of providing for their children still living at home from the sum of this ten percent?

Answer: We have previously discussed that one must donate a certain amount of Tzedakah annually. It is a “middle” level for one to give a tenth of one’s monthly profits every month. Now let us deal with our question regarding those who donate a tenth of their monthly profits to Tze......

Read Halacha

How Much Tzedakah One Must Donate

The Rambam, Tur, and Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch write that the amount one should donate for Tzedakah is, if one can afford it, based on the necessities of the needy people. This means that if one is extremely wealthy and can provide for the needs of poor people in one’s city, one should ind......

Read Halacha


The Privilege to Donate Tzedakah

In the previous Halacha, we have discussed how the prophet Yirmeya requested from Hashem that when the wicked wish to donate Tzedakah, he should present them with unworthy people. This means that the Tzedakah funds should go to unworthy causes, such as cheaters and con-artists. As such, the wicked w......

Read Halacha

The Mitzvah of Tzedakah

The Tur (Yoreh De’ah, Chapter 247) writes: “There is a positive Torah commandment for one to donate some of one’s money to charity, based on one’s individual capabilities. In addition to the fact that whoever donates charity fulfills a positive Torah commandment, one who abst......

Read Halacha

Unworthy Individuals

In the previous Halachot, we have explained the primary aspects of the Mitzvah of Tzedakah. If one transgresses any prohibition in the Torah and does not repent, for instance, if one is aware of the prohibition of shaving one’s beard with a razor and he nevertheless does so or one who dese......

Read Halacha

Who is Obligated in the Mitzvah of Tzedakah?

Every member of the Jewish nation must donate Tzedakah. Even a pauper who receives Tzedakah, has no way of earning a livelihood, and only lives off of what others provide him with must give Tzedakah from what others give him. When the Sages of Israel had control over the Jewish nation, the Jewish co......

Read Halacha